Updated: Apr 10
Our interpretive framework for this week’s Torah Portion is based on the words of Messiah when he told of how the Old Testament speaks of and was written about him;
John 5:46 (The Scriptures)
46 “For if you believed Mosheh, you would have believed Me, since he wrote about Me.
Also elsewhere the Scripture’s words when on the road to Emmaus, after his resurrection, Yeshua revealed himself through the writings of Moses and the Prophets in that it also said there;
Luke 24:27 (The Scriptures)
27 And beginning at Mosheh and all the Prophets, He was explaining to them in all the Scriptures the matters concerning Himself.
Meaning that the Torah is many things; it has historical narratives for you and I to learn, commandments for how we are to live, genealogies and descriptions of the creation of the temple, regardless though of the words and of how we may categorize the Scripture; it all speaks of Messiah.
With regard to Joseph you have probably just about heard it all before; and today, you’ll hear it again. This is not just a historical narrative about a great man who overcame challenges and ascended to great heights with our Lord. It is prophecy; it is a framework and one of the many ‘shadows’ of our Messiah who is Yeshua.
We know already of Joseph from earlier within the Torah and without review there is one little fact that’s worth a mention. Of all the brothers and sons of Israel, Joseph is fist child born to Jacob’s love, Rachel, who died on the journey back to Israel giving birth to her second child, Jacob’s twelfth, Benjamin.
Yet here in Genesis 37 is where Joseph becomes the focus of our attention and fascinatingly verse 2 of the Torah Portion starts with ‘this is the genealogy of Jacob. Joseph…’ As has been done before in the Scripture, where it gives a person’s genealogy, it would start with ‘this is the genealogy’. Yet here with Jacob, his genealogy is the story of Joseph. Such is the love that he had for him that his legacy, though it is many things, is found within his most loved son, Joseph.
Now the usual teaching with these chapters is one that compares the life of Joseph to the life of Yeshua. We will do that again as our Master revealed Himself through these stories. But going through this we will endeavor to see things through Hebrew eyes and in a tradition that you may not have been exposed too. Some things we will skip, but considering that anyone can google a comparison between Joseph and Yeshua there are some things that can be researched on your own.
We’ve already learnt that Jacob favors his son Joseph. We know this because, being good students of the Bible, we know that he is Jacob’s first born to Rachel, we know it because we noted the order Jacob placed his family when he crossed into Israel (who was the furthest from danger?) and we definitely know it now because verse 3 of our portion says that ‘Israel loved Joseph more than all of his children…’
In the tradition of the sages they say that anyone who looked upon the face of Joseph commented on the uncanny likeness that he had with his father; and the sages do not make such a comment purely in reference to their physical attributes. What they mean is that Joseph in many respects was his father’s son, alike him in every way.
What is great about that comment is that one can connect it to sages’ earlier commentary on Jacob. You may recall the story of how Jacob slept during his sojourn out of Israel and how one night he woke and saw a ladder with angels descending and ascending on it. Well here the sages say that the angels were astonished for they, when atop the ladder, looked into the throne room of God and into the face of Messiah; when down the bottom of the latter, looked into the face of Jacob; and astonished they’d rush back up to the top of the ladder to look again upon the face of Messiah, astonished, for the two faces were the same. Teaching not only of the spiritual heights Jacob would achieve, but of how he would emulate the Messiah; and here now, his son with the same face who would too would emulate our Master. Joseph’s story then, even in Jewish thinking, can be seen through the framework of Messiah and it’s one that isn’t just a Church typology. In fact, and I’ll spare the details here, but we are all familiar with the Jewish concept of Messiah son of Joseph and the Messiah son of David. Well that’s not a reference to Joseph in your New Testament but the Joseph of the old and for thousands of years Judaism has understood the concept of 2 Messiahs, one the suffering servant, and the other the conquering king. The suffering servant in Hebraic thinking finds its roots within the story of Joseph.
Verse 2 comments stating that Joseph was 17 years old. We can track Joseph’s age within the story so telling us his age does serve a plain and simple purpose but all details in the word of God mean something. Here, the sages note that the word in Hebrew, ‘tov’, which means good, has the numerical value of 17. There is more to the numbers here but the simple message been communicated is the goodness of Jacob but also his clear connection to God. Within Kabalistic thinking the number 17 is also connected to the sacred name Yahweh, which within a subset system of gematria also has the numerical value of 17. Regardless, 17 teaches us that Joseph is good, as God is good;
Psalm 135:3a (The Scriptures)
3 Praise Yah, for יהוה is good…
Now as we look into the connection between Joseph and Messiah, that other connection
between Joseph and God should not be understated; and I’m not talking about with regard to his moral behavior, I’m alluding to matters of identity.
Nonetheless the second verse continues to yield some interesting fruit as it continues and in the next sentence begins with the phrase ‘and the young man…’; which is peculiar because it is clearly speaking of Joseph yet here refers to him as, in the Hebrew, a na’ar. You may think what a foolish thing to point out, the Scripture has identified his age as 17, which would make Joseph, funnily enough, a young man.
Na’ar is a phrase however that is loaded with implications. Even if you simply start with the verbal connections (remezim) and look at all the other places in Scripture where the word na’ar is used to describe people, you would see some interesting things, and please note that using the phrase na’ar is eye catching because it’s unnecessary, having already given us Joseph’s age. There are also plenty of young men in Scripture, but only some are notably described with this term.
Eleizer is called a young man who is intentionally written out of the text and into anonymity at times to serve the purpose of illustrating his role as similar to that of the Holy Spirit.
Isaac was a na’ar; and after Joseph there’s Joshua, the young man. Of Joshua the Scripture says;
Exodus 33:11 (The Scriptures)
11 Thus יהוה spoke to Mosheh face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Yehoshua son of Nun, a young man, did not leave the Tent.
Now this verse in particular causes quite the commentary within Jewish circles as to how exactly Joshua was able to stay behind within the Tent of Meeting. It’s here that large bodies of literature speculate as to the mystical ‘young man’ who remains within the Tabernacle at all times. The sages teach that within the Temple in Heaven, that Temple not made with human hands that there’s a boy, who I imagine is incredibly dear to God, who remains within the Temple always and as the sages say, he’s at the place where the souls of the righteous are given for the atonement of Israel.
Now skipping large bodies of work I’ll give you the sages conclusion, but this young man, the na’ar, is Messiah. It should therefore not be a surprise to read in your not so New Testament a story of how a young man remained within the Temple grounds, as it is written;
Luke 2:46–49 (The Scriptures)
46 And it came to be, after three days, that they found Him in the Set-apart Place, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.
47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.
48 And having seen Him, they were amazed. And His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? See, Your father and I have been anxiously seeking You.”
49 And He said to them, “Why were you seeking Me? Did you not know that I had to be in the matters of My Father?”
Now the phrase ‘young man’ makes a few notable appearances in Scripture but one that I found to be quite obscure, yet interesting, is in Isaiah 11, which is that chapter which says;
Isaiah 11:2 (The Scriptures)
2 The Spirit of יהוה shall rest upon Him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of יהוה,
But the chapter continues and gives us a brief look into the world to come where ‘wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and a leopard lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a (young man) leads them…’; and it goes on to say ‘they do no evil nor destroy in my set apart mountain for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of YHWH.’
Yet , the one leading them in, in this time of paradise is this young man; an interesting allusion to Messiah and the sages teach as an allusion to Joseph.
What’s probably more relevant though to Joseph from Isaiah 11 is found in the earlier verses which describe the nature of the spirit that rests upon the Messiah. While I may not be able to give you a specific connection from Isaiah 11:2 to Joseph directly we may connect the two in that they both speak of Messiah. Now why I point this out is that I believe, when the Scripture says over and over that ‘God was with Joseph’, that it’s telling us that the Holy Spirit was with Joseph and here in Isaiah 11 we’re given a further description of what that entails.
This is the answer as to how Joseph interpreted the later dreams mentioned to him whilst in prison.
Note that when the butler and the baker tell Joseph their dreams in Genesis 40 that Joseph famously says ‘interpretations belong to God’ and then, on hearing the dream, Joseph immediately begins to interpret without the need for time and without the need to pray or consult with the Father. This is because Joseph was so filled with the Holy Spirit, the spirit of understanding and wisdom etc. that he could just do so. The Lord was with Joseph and such was their connection.
Before we get to the prisoner’s dreams however we see in Genesis 37 the dreams that Joseph had himself first. The two dreams where he saw his sheaf standing and the brothers sheaves all bowing to him; and the second where the sun the moon and the stars all bowed down to him.
The interpretation of the dreams within Joseph’s story is provided for us and explained as a clear indication that Joseph would reign over his brothers. It also makes further sense when there’s the food shortage and the brother’s go down to Egypt in order to acquire grain at the hand of Joseph. Notably though, we may allow ourselves to engage in some ‘messianic’ interpretation and the key for seeing this in the first dream is in understanding that the sheaf is the ‘first fruits’ of the harvest. It actually then speaks of the resurrection of the Messiah and when He did die His resurrection coincided with the Festival of the First Fruits when the priests would offer a single sheaf of barley in the temple as a wave offering to God. Calling Messiah the ‘first fruits’ then, is identifying Him with that one special sheaf of barley which is to be offered to God. Singling out one sheaf in Joseph’s dream speaks of this and notably without the offering or sacrifice of that first sheaf the rest of the field remains forbidden for consumption. A harvest that has not been tithed in the Torah is not kosher so all the sheaves then rely on the offering of the first, thus all the sheaves bow down to the first.
‘My sheaf rose up and stood erect’ the sages teach ‘alludes to the prophecy in Isaiah 52:2 (which says) ‘shake yourself from the dust and rise up’ – that he (Messiah son of Joseph) is raised up and made to rule and lifted from the dust. And the words in Psalm 118:5 ‘from my distress I called upon the Lord; the Lord answered me’ alludes to them that will be saved from the distress of Messiah Son of Joseph, namely that he will not only be slain but he will also live at the time of redemption and that it will be said of them ‘shake yourself from the dust, rise up’ (Zerah Kodesh)
And in the words of the New Testament;
1 Corinthians 15:20 (The Scriptures)
20 … Messiah has been raised from the dead, and has become the first-fruit of those having fallen asleep.
The dream with sun, moon and stars is often taken as much the same; however it’s notable because within the typology that is used, where Jacob is the sun and the sons are the stars, it indicates that the moon refers to Joseph’s mother. Hence the reaction perhaps from Jacob as Joseph’s Mother, Rachel, was dead. Considering this then the sages have long interpreted the second dream as being Messianic, but speaking of a time in the world to come when all, in the resurrection, would bow down to the Messiah.
Returning to verse 2 there’s a little something else that speaks to the leadership of Joseph and his connection to Messiah.
The specific part of the verse I want to draw to your attention is ‘Joseph…was feeding the flock with his brothers.’ The Hebrew is fascinating here and the translation that Joseph was ‘shepherding’ ‘with’ his brothers is accurate; it however can be rendered somewhat different.
Rather, it can read as;
‘Joseph was the shepherd of his brothers…’
Teaching us that he wasn’t really there for the flock of sheep, he was there for Jacob’s ‘flock’ and looking after his brethren. Considering that one can perhaps understand why he was not so liked, especially when the moral behavior of the sons was questionable and considering that Joseph would report the truth back to his Father.
Joseph as shepherd should be seen in the correct light, as Messiah is also the shepherd of his brothers. Joseph then, been sent to find his brothers in Genesis 37, is akin to Yeshua who was also sent to find his lost brothers – subsequently, his betrayal and ‘death’ also speak of the Messiah.
Before we progress in the story though to Joseph’s sale and descent into Egypt, one cannot ignore that famous garment of ‘many colours’ (or long robe) mentioned in verse 3.
Genesis 37:3 (The Scriptures)
3 And Yisra’ěl loved Yosěph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a long robe.
The long robe is a fascinating allusion to Messiah.
In the Hebrew it’s called the ‘kittanet pasim’ and refers to a long garment which notably was not suited to the work of shepherding. Clothing, as it does today, sets one apart and the message Jacob sent to the brothers in providing Joseph with this coat sent a clear message. The word ‘passim’ does indicate colours and within the culture it may refer to the hem of the garment been adorned with fine work, and as we know, the hem of a man’s garment in the ancient world indicated his status and spoke of status in regard to one’s priestly role, and in regards to one’s status of royalty. No wonder the brother didn’t like the garment that adorned their younger brother.
For you and I the messianic implications are astounding.
The High Priest of Israel, on the day of yom kippur, strips down and wears only his basic garment, without the breastplate and all the other adornments. He only wears one garment and that is, the kittanet, the garment worn by the High Priest. This garment then indicates so much more and speaks of Messiah as High Priest and this story, interestingly enough, is connected in Jewish thinking to the Day of Atonement. One of the ways the sages see this is in that this portion has the appearance of 2 goats, the one slain in Genesis 37 and the other that lived in Genesis 38, akin they say to the 2 goats used on Yom Kippur. What is particularly fascinating is that in Jewish thinking the main sin that is to be atoned for year after year on Yom Kippur is the sin of Israel’s sale of Joseph. The story of Joseph then connects deeply not just to Messiah, but to Messiah as High Priest.
The sages comment on Zechariah 12:10-12 which reads;
Zechariah 12:10–12 (The Scriptures)
10 “And I shall pour on the house of Dawiḏ and on the inhabitants of Yerushalayim a spirit of favour and prayers. And they shall look on Me whom they pierced, and they shall mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son. And they shall be in bitterness over Him as a bitterness over the first-born.
11 “In that day the mourning in Yerushalayim is going to be great, like the mourning at Haḏaḏ Rimmon in the valley of Meḡiddo.
12 “And the land shall mourn, every clan by itself: the clan of the house of Dawiḏ by itself, and their women by themselves; the clan of the house of Nathan by itself, and their women by themselves..
The Babylonian Talmud says of Zechariah;
With regard to “And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart” (Zech. 12:12),] What was the reason for the mourning [to which reference is made in Zechariah’s statement]?
B. R. Dosa and rabbis differed on this matter.
C. One said, “It is on account of the Messiah, the son of Joseph, who was killed.”
Neusner, J. (2011). The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary (Vol. 5b, pp. 213–214). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.
Another reason why the sin of the sale of Joseph is taken so seriously by the sages is because hundreds of years later, in the time of Amos, the Father still spoke of it;
Amos 2:6 (The Scriptures)
6 Thus said יהוה, “For three transgressions of Yisra’ěl, and for four, I do not turn it back, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals,
There’s only one in Scripture prior to this sold for silver by Israel, and the sages emphatically say that God is here speaking of Joseph and you and I know that this also speaks of Yeshua; who was betrayed by his brothers and sold for silver.
That they dipped Joseph’s garment in blood is a remez to the Messiah within the Bible as most clearly seen in Revelation 19;
Revelation 19:11–13 (The Scriptures)
11 And I saw the heaven opened, and there was a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Trustworthy and True, and in righteousness He judges and fights.
12 And His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns, having a Name that had been written, which no one had perceived except Himself—
13 and having been dressed in a robe dipped in blood—and His Name is called: The Word of יהוה.
The garment then and Joseph, speak clearly about the sale and betrayal of Israel’s High Priest.
That Amos says that they sold the righteous for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals alludes to details not explicitly said in this week’s portion. The sages say, as we can read in the ‘Testament of the 12 Patriarchs’, that the brothers, once they had sold Joseph, bought sandals with the profit and that some of the brothers even did so that they could continually trample on the memory of Joseph. This is suggested as one of the many reasons as to why sandals are not to be worn in the Temple or when on sacred ground (not the reason mind you).
It’s fascinating that the word for ‘many colours’, that is ‘passim’, is related to the word ‘payis’ in Hebrew which means ‘lottery’. Though it is not written explicitly in the text the sages say in the Midrash;
It is called multicoloured because they cast lots over it; as to who should carry it to their Father. The lot fell to Judah.
Here the midrash speaks truth in every sense of the word; verified by the betrayal of Judah and by the fact that they cast lots for Yeshua’s garment’s at His crucifixion.
As it says in the scripture (quoting Psalms);
John 19:24 (The Scriptures)
24 … “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it—whose it shall be,” in order that the Scripture might be filled which says, “They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”
Thus Joseph finds his end and after been left in the pit is sold into slavery and descends into Egypt.
The story has an interlude in Genesis 38 with Judah which though seems an interruption is not and when we come to Genesis 39 much of what is been said is said in contrast to Genesis 38. Joseph’s morality, for instance, is contrasted to Judah’s; Potiphar’s wife is contrasted to Tamar and so on. There is one unifying lesson that I would just quickly point out. The Scripture says that ‘Judah went down from his brothers’ and of Joseph Scripture actually uses the same Hebrew language, ‘Joseph had been taken down to Egypt’, which eventually teaches us that though we all will have spiritual descents in our life, that it all serves for good and that like Judah and Joseph, we can all ascend again; God willing.
At any rate Joseph finds himself in Potiphar’s house and here he is doing what Joseph does and that is excel. He finds himself again in a place of leadership though yet again his prestige lands him in trouble. This time it’s the attention of Potiphar’s wife that is the trouble. Scripture says;
Genesis 39:7–12 (The Scriptures)
7 And after these events it came to be that his master’s wife lifted up her eyes to Yosěph and said, “Lie with me.”
8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has given into my hand all that he has.
9 “No one is greater in this house than I, and he has not withheld whatever from me but you, because you are his wife. And how shall I do this great evil and sin against Elohim?”
10 And it came to be, as she spoke to Yosěph day by day, that he did not listen to her, to lie with her, to be with her.
11 And it came to be on a certain day, when Yosěph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside,
12 that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside.
Subsequently, Joseph was falsely accused as Messiah was and put in prison.
In the interest of comparing this to Messiah we can note that He too was tempted in His time on earth;
Hebrews 4:15 (NKJV)
15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
But this story is really one where we can learn so much from the example set by Joseph. Most notably, his response to Potiphar’s wife is amazing; he says ‘how can I do this great evil and sin against God?’ which is something that you and I and our generation has long since forgotten. Sin is against God and our motivation to not sin should be our motivation and love for God. Joseph also spoke of Potiphar in his response to her and truly emulated the words of Yeshua when he tells us to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
That Joseph was tempted teaches us that we too will be tempted. That he succeeded in withstanding temptation teaches us that we too can succeed in holding true.
With regard to sexual immorality in particular Paul says to ‘flee’ and in Acts 15 ‘whoring’ is one of the 3 main sins we are told to abstain from. That Joseph did so speaks wonders of his integrity; that he did so having suffered so much already speaks wonders as to the example he has set for you and I.
Here though, given the time of year, I wanted to mention Hanukah. For the sin of sexual immorality is bad enough in and of itself but sexual immorality is significant in that it is a joining of 2 distinct people, in ways that go well beyond the physical. In Scripture it’s often symbolic of an abandonment of God and a joining of different cultures to Israel’s and of mixed worship. Just think Esau when he married Canaanite women, the incident with Phineas and even the days of Nehemiah. The sin that Joseph was presented with wasn’t just a naughty that he could do and move on, it was so much more.
Why I find this so relevant at the time of Hanukah is that our attitudes towards sex in so many ways determine so much else for our culture. Sex is cheap in today’s landscape, this has devalued marriage, abortions are up and the value of life diminished, self worth is down, the value of women demeaned and shamed, true masculinity is lost and responsibility for one’s actions is lessened. The impact that our changing attitude towards sex has contributed to the decline of our culture.
Living up to Joseph’s standard’s here (really God’s standards) goes so far beyond not just misbehaving, but requires a commitment to a way of life and a culture completely alien to the ways of the world.
So what I would like to leave you with, is that the example of Joseph in this incident, is not that he controlled his desire, but that he was completely sold out for God and completely committed to living like our Master. For people who struggle with any kind of sin, addressing just that one sin is not necessarily the answer but a whole change of character and having a complete commitment to God is required.
Joseph didn’t say ‘its wrong to have sex’ whilst implying that maybe he would want to but couldn’t; Joseph completely loved the Father and was obedient in all things.
How this relates to Hanukah is that the lesson Hanukah teaches us, and the lesson Joseph teaches us, is the same.
Reject the culture of the world.
Even if we isolate the issue of sexual immorality the difference would be huge. Don’t have sex before marriage, say no, God forbid, don’t put yourself in a compromising position in the first place and if you find yourself in one don’t just say no but remove yourself completely from the situation like Joseph did. Don’t go to night clubs, don’t let your kids go to parties where alcohol and immorality abounds, wait for the one that God has determined for you and you’ll be different; and that’s the point.
Holiness in the Scripture as you know means to be ‘set apart’; it means to be different as Joseph was different; it means that we are not like them and that’s a lesson worth stressing.
‘We’, being Israel; are not like ‘them’ who are not in covenant with the God of Israel.
In modern times we are implored to unify with each other and we often told that we’re all really the same. I remember at university, when studying politics and media that the language of the ‘other’ was to be rejected and that it was inherently a bad thing. By the language of the ‘other’ I mean narratives and positions that create distinctions between people. Identifying ‘boat people’ as different to us should be rejected (that actually might not be a bad thing); speaking of homosexuals as different is bad, creating any kind of ‘other’ or barrier between people is to be rejected; we are to all unify and integrate into each other’s way of life.
I have to agree with certain aspects of my lecturer’s point; language of the ‘other’ can breed hatred and violence but unlike the world I encourage you all to understand that there is an ‘us’; being Israel, and there is a ‘them’. We must understand that there is a distinction to be had between ‘us’ and ‘them’ and we are not to be like them. Thinking like that has to be taken in context with all the Scripture so it doesn’t give you license to hate or put down other people, but it means that you understand that we’re different and though we can get along; we’re not to be unified with the world.
How this relates to Hanukah is that the conquering king of the day, a pagan called Antiochus issued a decree to all of his kingdom declaring that all should be unified.
1 Maccabees in the first chapter reads;
41-43 Antiochus now issued a decree that all nations in his empire should abandon their own customs and become one people. All the Gentiles and even many of the Israelites submitted to this decree. They adopted the official pagan religion, offered sacrifices to idols, and no longer observed the Sabbath.
44 The king also sent messengers with a decree to Jerusalem and all the towns of Judea, ordering the people to follow customs that were foreign to the country. 45 He ordered them not to offer burnt offerings, grain offerings, or wine offerings in the Temple, and commanded them to treat Sabbaths and festivals as ordinary work days. 46 They were even ordered to defile the Temple and the holy things in it.[e] 47 They were commanded to build pagan altars, temples, and shrines, and to sacrifice pigs and other unclean animals there. 48 They were forbidden to circumcise their sons and were required to make themselves ritually unclean in every way they could, 49 so that they would forget the Law which the Lord had given through Moses and would disobey all its commands. 50 The penalty for disobeying the king's decree was death.
51 The king not only issued the same decree throughout his whole empire, but he also appointed officials to supervise the people and commanded each town in Judea to offer pagan sacrifices. 52 Many of the Jews were ready to forsake the Law and to obey these officials. They defiled the land with their evil, 53 and their conduct forced all true Israelites to hide wherever they could.
Joseph just didn’t resist temptation; Joseph was different and not unified with this world. So it is for Messiah and so it should be for us.
1 John 2:15–17 (The Scriptures)
15 Do not love the world nor that which is in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 Because all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.
17 And the world passes away, and the lust of it, but the one doing the desire of Elohim remains forever.
Yet Joseph finds himself in trouble again, and this time he is placed in prison.
He again excels and is placed into a position of authority within the prison and it is here that Joseph interprets the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker. There’s much that can be said about Genesis 40 but the Messianic shadows in this chapter are quite interesting.
The cupbearer’s dream speaks of his redemption and the baker’s dream speaks of his death. As in Genesis 37 the interpretation of the dreams is given but we again may learn of the Messiah in these two prophetic dreams.
Besides what I think are fairly obvious allusions to the death and the resurrection of Yeshua one of the more interesting things to learn is in the Hebrew of Genesis 40:5.
Genesis 40:5 (The Scriptures)
5 Then the cupbearer and the baker of the sovereign of Mitsrayim, who were confined in the prison, dreamed a dream, both of them, each man’s dream in one night and each man’s dream with its own interpretation.
It actually speaks of the ‘dreams’ initially in the singular i.e. speaking of only one dream but both had by the two men. Examination of this speaks of the paradox of Messiah who would suffer yet who would be elevated to such a high place within the kingdom of God. In actuality, identifying the 2 separate dreams as one speaks to the two comings of the Messiah but in the identity of the one Messiah, not two.
Of the 1st coming the allusions are clear; the mention of the third day and the ‘hanging’ that would occur for the baker, the same language, that is ‘hanging’, is used to describe crucifixion. The sages further identify in Genesis 40 that there are 4 times that the ‘cup’ is mentioned and they identify these with the 4 cups that we drink from during the Passover ceder.
Rather then see the allusions to Messiah within the dreams themselves I think the clearer allusion to the death of Yeshua is that Joseph here is placed with 2 other men who were criminals; 1 who was redeemed and the other who was not.
Does that not sound a little familiar?
These men in actuality are symbolic of 2 groups of people that exist in the world, as we shall see.
But in the time of Yeshua’s death He too was placed with 2 other criminals, 1 who was redeemed and the other who was not.
Luke 23:32–43 (The Scriptures)
32 And two others also, evil-doers, were led with Him to be put to death.
33 And when they had come to the place called Golgotha, they impaled Him there, and the evil-doers, one on the right and the other on the left.
34 And יהושׁע said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots.
35 And the people were standing, looking on, and the rulers also were sneering with them, saying, “He saved others, let Him save Himself if He is the Messiah, the chosen of Elohim.”
36 And the soldiers were mocking Him too, coming and offering Him sour wine,
37 and saying, “If You are the Sovereign of the Yehuḏim, save Yourself.”
38 And there was also an inscription written over Him in letters of Greek, and Roman, and Heḇrew: THIS IS THE SOVEREIGN OF THE YEHUḎIM.
39 And one of the evil-doers who were hanged, was speaking evil of Him, saying, “If You are the Messiah, save Yourself and us.”
40 But the other, responding, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear Elohim, since you are under the same judgment?
41 “And we, indeed, rightly so, for we receive the due reward of our deeds, but this One has done no wrong.”
42 And he said to יהושׁע, “Master, remember me when You come into Your reign.”
43 And יהושׁע said to him, “Truly, I say to you today, you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
These 2 criminals correspond to the 2 criminals in the story of Joseph (part of the connection is that prison is viewed as death etc.). Now much has been said about Joseph and the example he is for us. Let us consider for a second the example of the criminal that rebuked the other who was mocking Messiah. He acknowledged his sin, accepted his punishment, had faith in Messiah and was rewarded.
I said these 2 represent 2 different groups of people; these are mentioned in Matthew 25;
Matthew 25:31–34 (The Scriptures)
31 “And when the Son of Aḏam comes in His esteem, and all the set-apart messengers with Him, then He shall sit on the throne of His esteem.
32 “And all the nations shall be gathered before Him, and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats.
33 “And He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 “Then the Sovereign shall say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the reign prepared for you from the foundation of the world—
That the dreams are prophetic is also seen in Joseph’s words to the baker when he said
‘and the birds shall eat your flesh from you…’
This being connected to the ‘goats’ in Matthew 25 whose fate is further detailed in Revelation 19.
Revelation 19:17–18 (The Scriptures)
17 And I saw one messenger standing in the sun, and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in mid-heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great Elohim,
18 to eat the flesh of sovereigns, and the flesh of commanders, and the flesh of strong ones, and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.”
So we are to choose then as Joseph chose, to follow our God and to reject the things of this world; to repent as He taught us too and to be different than to the ways of the world.
Joseph’s story sets the pattern not just prophetically for Messiah but sets the pattern and the example for us. If Joseph, a mere man, can do it then so can we.
Joseph not only teaches us about the faith we should all attempt to emulate it shows us that God will never forget us, even in our darkest times.
On this the Midrash says that God looked down upon Joseph and said;
‘The cupbearer forgot you; but I will never forget you’.
The scripture says;
Psalm 37:28 (The Scriptures)
28 For יהוה loves right-ruling,
And does not forsake His kind ones;
They shall be guarded forever
Notably, ‘the kind ones’ is in the singular; the verse speaks only of one man ‘the kind one’ who the sages teach is Joseph. God will not forget His kind one and if we’re joined to Him as with Messiah then He too will not forget you.
Though it seems unfair for Joseph, the way his life went; His is a story showing us that truly all things work for good. Though our goodness may be concealed and tested in times of trouble God is working to refine each and every one of us.
As the midrash says;
‘The fathers of the tribes were busy selling Joseph. Jacob was busy with his sackcloth and fasting. Judah was busy taking a wife.
Meanwhile, The Holy One, Blessed be he, was creating the light of Messiah.’
- Genesis Rabbah 85:1
Messiah is that light concealed in the darkness sitting in prison as Joseph did waiting to be revealed. Within you is that light too and it too is waiting to be revealed.
Many neglect the lesson that Josephs ‘revealing’ in the chapters to come speaks not only of Messiah’s revelation in the end of days, but also to how each and everyone one of us will be revealed and that our true identity will be laid bare.
Joseph’s story then teaches that your actions whilst hidden amongst Egypt will be seen when your true identity revealed. His story is not just a blueprint of Messiah; it’s a prophetic blueprint for us.
So are you for us or against us? Will you persevere like Joseph did in prison, like Israel has through all its trials, through war, through famine, through exile, through holocaust; or will you answer the call of Antiochus and unite with the world? Will you commit this ‘grave sin’ against God and be joined to the ‘other’?
Who are you?
The concealed light or just a goat?